With Mr. Green in prison, his family works to secure his release. Meanwhile, Nurse Phinney tries to console a dying soldier, Drs. Foster and Hale struggle for control over who decides proper medical procedure, and Aurelia accepts that she might have to move on. But, unknown to all of them, the Knights of the Golden Circle plan to assassinate President Lincoln when he visits Mansion House.
The second half of the series has been leading up to this final moment–the day that the Knights of the Golden Circle attempt to blow up the Union hospital where most of our protagonists spend every day. As the minutes counted down and only ten minutes remained of the show, then only six, I wondered “How will they do it? How will they pull it off?” After all, the Green family has broken apart as they pursue increasingly desperate avenues to aid their father and the Confederacy. Dr. Foster has been been struggling all season to reform medical practice at Mansion House. Aurelia remains separated from her boy. And Frank, Emma’s beau, is about to commit mass murder even as she wavers between her loyalty to him and her new attraction to the handsome hospital chaplain. Six minutes. How will everyone’s story end?
I hope this is not a spoiler–but the stories do not end. It took Mercy Street six episodes to reach this point only so the show could end with multiple major cliffhangers and no announcement (yet) for a second season. My understanding is that historical dramas like this are somewhat expensive to produce, so it seems odd to me that the season would not wrap up, just in case the audience does not justify a second season. (And, with three weak episodes out of six, I would not be surprised if the views did not justify a continuation of the show.)
I like to think that PBS meant to make a second season all along and that, eventually, we will learn how everyone’s story ends. (I need Emma and the chaplain to get together!) Until that time, however, the abrupt ending of the final episode overshadows so much of the good that it contained, from the Green family’s remarkable performances as they try to release Mr. Green to Aurelia’s small moment of triumph. The show was finally hitting its stride when suddenly it ended.
*Need more Civil War drama? Check out the blog explaining the history behind the show.